Address: 41-42 Deptford Broadway, SE8 4PH
Nearest Station: Deptford Bridge/New Cross
Tel. No.: 020 8333 7491
Good For: Cheap and cheerful, Casual dining, Quiet meal
Ah, Deptford. The place was known to me primarily because of its history – its illustrious naval and maritime heritage, and its rather less salubrious reputation as the place where Christopher Marlowe died in a tavern brawl. And although I’d been to neighbouring New Cross several times to visit friends, I’d never dined out in the area. All in all, the place was a big unknown for me.
But now that I live in New Cross, I can appreciate the fact that Deptford is an exciting and varied place with a well-established Vietnamese community, presenting me with several good dining options right on my doorstep. However, the way that I discovered Le Gia harked more towards the ‘Christopher Marlowe’ side of things – the drinking side, not the stabbing, I hasten to add.
Nursing a massive hangover, I woke up after having unexpectedly crashed at my friends’ place in New Cross. Not willing to be more of an imposition, I went out in search of sustenance. Taking a curious and slow stroll towards Deptford, I chanced upon Le Gia, and looking at the menu, decided that this was exactly what I needed.
First impressions were a bit odd. It’s rather ‘hidden’ from the outside, and you wouldn’t expect a Vietnamese restaurant in what looks like an ex-pub. The inside is a bit clinical, the simple tables being dwarfed by the high ceilings. At the time they were playing Vietnamese karaoke videos on the TV above the bar – thankfully, for the time of day, the videos were on silent; I’ve discovered since that the karaoke is a constant feature of Le Gia, and in the evenings they let it all out by unmuting the TV.
The other thing that struck me, and still puzzles me, is that the place was and is usually nearly empty. Every time I have been (although the last time I went was a few months back) the only other diners have typically been a table of the owner’s friends. Usually a bunch of tough-looking and quiet-spoken fellows, I might add. You can draw your own conclusions from that…
This emptiness should be off-putting in most cases, but in Le Gia’s case it’s more than out-balanced by the quality of the food – which is why this place intrigues me. I love squid with chilli and salt, and Le Gia definitely delivers with their version: slightly crunchy-fried, a good level of salt and pieces of chilli lying around just asking to be eaten. The vermicelli noodles with grilled pork (and other toppings, depending on the option chosen) are delightful, tasty and filling; the one with grilled pork, spring rolls, pork hash and fresh vegetables is a must. Similarly good for the comfort eater is the grilled pork chop on rice – the rice is slightly sticky and soft, just how I like it; the pork is smoky and tender. Whilst those are the stand-out dishes for me, I’ve always been rather envious of the meals that my family and companions have had with me. Le Gia seems to be rather strong across the board.
And to finish off the meal, I always order a cup of Viet caphe, being in love with all things with condensed milk in them. It’s a sensibly-sized cup of the strong stuff and drip-filtered slowly in the traditional way. It is achingly sweet – they do not skimp on the condensed milk. Full marks to them here.
I’ve had a chance to try some of the other Vietnamese places in Deptford, but still I’m drawn back to thinking of Le Gia. So why has the place always been empty? I wish I knew. Maybe I’m just blessed with the ability to always go at the right time to get a table. Who knows…
VERDICT – Highly recommended. It makes for a nice local Vietnamese, that’s cheap and cheerful and serves good food. And you can always get a table!
Currently listening to: Sinsemilia – +2 Flics